Denton Dram Cocktail Review: Don & Vic

Paschall Bar brings to mind images of leather, dusty books and dimly lit corners. Brace yourselves, Dentonites, because that changes every Tuesday night thanks to bartendress Aurora Arellano’s new concept that guarantees everyone gets lei’d. Welcome to Tiki Night in Denton, TX!

Cool marimba and steel guitar melodies float through the air; bright paper lanterns are strung across the bar, and instead of our Denton Courthouse just outside the window, you feel for a moment you might catch a glimpse of a palm tree or the glitter of a calm surf at dusk. The vibe is lively yet welcoming, and soon you find yourself drawn to the colorful drinks garnished with flamboyant umbrellas, flowers, and exotic fruit.

Arellano, dubbed the “Tiki Queen” by fellow Paschall employees, suggestions,  without hesitation, the Don & Vic Naturally a rum-based drink that is in tune with the theme of the night. Behind her ear dons a red hibiscus flower, and I can tell she means business as she passionately tells me more about the cocktail and its history.

“It’s called the Don & Vic after the two guys that originated Tiki cocktails as we know them today. Don the Beachcomber, he started the whole aesthetic idea of it,” she says, “When you think of a little rundown shack with all kinds of knick-knacks hanging around, that’s because of him.”

The drink presentation here never ceases to amaze. The drink is poured into a tall, ceramic kitschy tiki glass. It’s fully dressed with an umbrella, orchid, and mint sprig; truly a cocktail fit for a beachside soiree. In typical Tiki fashion, the drink has both light and dark rum, orgeat (an almond syrup), lime juice, grenadine, and absinthe. At first, I’m surprised by the addition of this last ingredient, but Arellano explains, “I used the ingredients that [Don and Vic] both really favor. Don used a lot of dark rums and absinthe, Vic preferred using light rums and popularized orgeat.”

At first sip, the orgeat provides a smooth, almost creamy character reminiscent of a Piña Colada. The cocktail is bolstered by the combination of rums; the dark lends a spiciness while the light gives brighter notes of vanilla and citrus. Cherry and lime add a fruity profile that gives the Don & Vic its authentic island feel. Lastly, the absinthe, which is arguably the most eccentric ingredient, leaves your palate buzzing with a hint of anise flavor. The drink is layered, complex. Overall, a perfect marriage for this tropical libation that is sure to keep you coming back for more.

In between sips I have to ask the obvious question, as Arellano is preparing a drink in an entire hollowed out pineapple, “Why Tiki? What’s the draw?”

“Doing cocktails, working in a cocktail bar, it’s so serious,” she says, “This is goofy, kitschy, and silly, and it makes people smile. It’s fun to play around with.”

 She goes on to reveal her ambitions of opening her own Tiki Bar right here in Denton, but in a slightly unpredictable location. “I want to do it in a basement, that’s what feels right to me. It’s secluded, there are no windows, so even if it’s the dead of winter you go downstairs, and you’re in Tiki world.”

The Don & Vic goes down too quickly, as the best of drinks tend to, and I’m wholly charmed by Arellano's “Tiki world.” Lights come on, the music ends, and the transportation to a small beachfront hut is snatched from view as quickly as it came…until next Tuesday, that is.

If you’re interested in bringing some Tiki tunes into your life, feel free to check out her playlist, Death by Tiki 2016, on Spotify.


Photo by Lauren Coe
Header image design by Jason Lee